Howard Shore: Mythic Gardens


Commissioned by the American Symphony Orchestra for cellist Sophie Shao, Howard Shore’s Mythic Gardens is a highly expressive work for cello and orchestra. The work was completed in 2012 and was given its premiere by Sophie Shao and the ASO under Leon Botstein in the USA. A companion concerto to his 2010 Piano Concerto, Ruin and Memory, Shore explores his style and mixes techniques from screen to stage.


The Music

Shore was inspired by three classic Italian gardens and their unique architecture when writing this work, hence why the three movements are named the way they are. 


Movement I – Cimbrone

The longest movement of the three, the opening to this concerto is lyrical and sets the pace for the whole movement. After an orchestral introduction, the soloist enters. Shore’s use of the cello is enigmatic, with interlocking themes, rich sonorities and lyrical expression coming into the forefront. The clean textures throughout allow for the listener to immerse themselves in Shore’s style, with the warm cello timbre also playing a big part of this effect. The end of the movement is the most agitated the music becomes in this section, with the cello joining forces with the orchestra one final time. 


Movement II – Medici 

Similarly to the opening movement, Medici is also a very lyrical movement, with the conversation from the previous movement continuing through. Shore focuses more on the soloist in this movement, with big passionate exclamations filling the space. A noticeable thing in this movement is that the soloist and orchestra are the least connected, with both doing their own thing and only sometimes rubbing shoulders with themes and resolutions. This adds an interesting character to the music and doesn’t wholly dictate what the listener should focus on.


Movement III – Visconti Borromeo Litta

The jaunty finale is full of energy and life as the opening exclamations from the soloist set the scene for the finale. Shore uses a lot of call and response passages to bring the two forces together to work in perfect harmony. As the conversation between the two keeps moving, the music becomes faster and much more agitated. The excitement that builds with this across a number of minutes of this movement makes the climax even more effective. The concerto ends with a jaunty theme that resolves at the very last moment of the piece. 


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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You might also enjoy… Kenneth Leighton: Elegy for Cello


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